By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2

An item Tuesday expressed dismay that the new Emma Maersk, the world's largest container ship -- nearly twice the displacement of a Nimitz-class supercarrier -- has a crew complement of just 14. Many English readers, including Dorothy Wickersham of Windsor, pointed out that the Emma Maersk just made port of call at Felixstowe, in the United Kingdom, on her maiden voyage -- and arrived with a crew of 13. It's only her first voyage and already this mega-gigantic vessel is understaffed!

Tom Herman of Louisville, Ky., writes, "I am a University of Kentucky fan and was invited by a friend to see them play Georgia. Saturday was cool in Lexington -- about mid-40s, but sunny. As an avid TMQ reader, I made sure to notice the dress of both cheerleading squads to see whether they displayed their courage -- and skin -- by braving the elements. At the start, cheerleader professionalism was equal. The female cheerleaders of both squads wore traditional fall outdoor cheerleading outfits with short skirts, while the men wore short-sleeved shirts and long pants. Georgia, a touchdown favorite, led 14-10 at the half. During the second half, clouds rolled in, blocking the sun and making the stadium chillier. Sometime during the third quarter, the female Bulldog cheerleaders donned track suits. I quickly looked down the sidelines to the opposite end of the field and noted approvingly that the Wildcat cheerleaders had no need of a costume change and were continuing to cheer in miniskirts. I pointed this out to my friend and noted that it was a good omen. Sure enough, the Blue and White promptly came back, beating Georgia 24-20 -- their first victory in the series in nine years. Some will say that this was due to Georgia having a down year, but thanks to TMQ, I know the real reason was the professionalism shown by our cheerleaders."

Kentucky cheerleader
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Kentucky's cheerleaders clearly made the difference against Georgia.

TMQ worried when encountering "xerex-infused mushrooms" on a trendy restaurant menu and being able to find no definition of "xerex." Laura Barbero-Buffa of Panama City, Panama, writes, "Don't panic, Xerez is another way of spelling Jerez, which is Spanish for sherry. So the trendy restaurant was just trying to find a more expensive-sounding way to say their mushrooms are soaked in sherry!" Ankoor Biswas of Chicago adds, "Xerez is a former name of Jerez de la Frontera, a city in southern Spain. Sherry wine was originally produced in this town, and got its name from the city -- which the Persian founder named after the Shiraz wine of Iran. So xerez is essentially the name for sherry produced near the Jerez de la Frontera region in Spain, and I suppose you're allowed to infuse your champignon with xerez, although that doesn't sound so appetizing to me. I knew all this because there's a Spanish second division soccer club named Xerez CD. Every once in a while it pays to be an American following international soccer."

TMQ noted that La Verne University had beaten Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, a consortium of three schools unable to defeat just one. Bryan Quevedo of Astoria countered, "Thank you for featuring my alma mater, Claremont McKenna College, and its sports team on the Obscure College Score of the Week. But at the contest it was the combined force of two schools, not three, that lost to La Verne. You see, one member of the consortium, Scripps, is a college for women. While the three schools fall under one umbrella for sports, the men's and women's teams have different mascots. Men's teams (with no Scripps students) play as the Stags, while the women's teams (which include Scripps) compete as the Athenas." Alejandro Gonzalez , another Claremont McKenna alum, added, "Our cross country team have shirts that say Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Nerd Is Our Middle Name." Wait, Mudd is your middle name!

Sarah Myksin of Middletown, Conn., reports, "New England fans did cheer for Adam Vinatieri when the Colts first ran on the field. He came out before the rest of the team, and he was applauded. It was only when he came onto the field to kick that he got booed." Mary Kay of New Orleans protests, "I was surprised you didn't mention Sean Payton's good sportsmanship by not scoring on Tampa late in the fourth after a turnover deep in Tampa territory. A final of 38-14 would have looked more impressive on the scoreboard but what Payton did is more impressive because it was the right thing to do." New Orleans got the ball at the Tampa 4 with 2:03 remaining and knelt four times, though this gave possession back to the Bucs with 30 seconds left; Jon "Once I Was A Teenage Coach" Gruden repaid the gesture by calling two off-tackle runs. Congratulations on sportsmanship all around! Meanwhile Matthew Freitas of Modesto, Calif., maintains the football gods punished Chicago for keeping starters on the field in the second half when leading San Francisco 41-0 by sending the Bears down to defeat against Miami.

Sean Sutton of Ypsilanti, Mich., writes, "In response to the reader who asserted the BCS system requires a team to run up the score, I would direct your attention to the number-two team in the nation, the University of Michigan. Michigan has compiled its ranking by simply playing top-notch, fundamental football while beating opponents by reasonable margins. The coaches frequently put in substitutes late in games they're winning, most frequently replacing their Heisman-contender Mike Hart who would benefit from the added stats, and run late in the game to kill the clock without embarrassing their opponents. Michigan exemplifies many TMQ tenants in general: the coaches have called 347 rushes to only 247 passes (including sacks and quarterback scrambles as called passing plays), they do not blitz heavily, they go for it on fourth-and-short in the Maroon Zone, and they are content to burn the clock late in the game."

Wayne Croston of Victorville, Calif.,, an engineer with GE Aviation, reports that the impressive but weirdly named new GEnx jet engine is pronounced by saying each individual letter: "GEE-EEE-EN-X". As in, "Hey Ralph, did you check the pressure in that GEE-EEE-EN-X?" Jerry Noble of Portland, Ore., countered, "Is it just me that when trying to pronounce the new jet engine named GEnx that it comes out JINX? Methinks this is not a very good name for a jet engine."

Ski lift
AP Photo/Keystone, Arno Balzarini
We could do without AMS right now.

Of sleep and aircraft cabins, Dr. Tonya Wren of Greenville, S.C., writes, "As part of my residency training, I spent a month at Copper Mountain, Colorado. Since the base of the mountain is nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, we saw plenty of acute mountain sickness or AMS, in addition to ski and snowboard injuries, of course. One key symptom of AMS is insomnia. People may be drowsier due to thin air, but do not sleep well. When a person sleeps, he or she doesn't breathe as deeply or as often. If there isn't as much oxygen around, such as at high altitude, blood oxygen levels drop during sleep. This triggers numerous wakening episodes times throughout the night, resulting in poor sleep. From my experience, I sleep on airplanes because I have gotten up early after staying up late packing the night before, and sitting on a plane is the first moment of real rest I've had in a while."

TMQ's proposed law of Fair Play on Points held that a team should stop trying to score if ahead by 40 points in the third quarter and 30 points in the fourth quarter. Many readers, including Melissa Manchester of Huntington Beach, Calif., asked: Since Northwestern blew a 38-3 lead, and the old Houston Oilers once blew a 35-3 lead, and the Seahawks were recently ahead 42-3 only to have the game end 42-30, why ever stop trying to score? Here's why. Hundreds of thousands of major-college games have been played in the last half-century (that is, since the forward pass became popular), and only once has a team with a lead of 35 points or more failed to win. Tens of thousands of NFL games have been played in the same period, and only once has a team with a lead of 32 points or more failed to win. Maybe it would be possible to lose a 40-point third-quarter lead, and a comet might strike the field, too. My proposed leads are insurmountable, so long as the leading team plays the percentages and grinds the clock.

Astrolabe
AP Photo/Josh Reynolds
Our technology has improved considerably from the days of the astrolabe.

TMQ wondered if PC forces would insist the military stop referring to universal time as "Zulu time," after the radio-traffic phonetic word for the letter Z. Lieutenant Commander Keland Regan of the United States Navy, who has taught navigation at the Naval Academy, writes, "If they will ever do away with Zulu time, this would throw the phonetic alphabet into a tailspin. Next Oscar the Grouch would be demanding a change for the letter O and bourbon makers would demand the Bravo for B be changed to Bourbon to offset having W called Whiskey." Then I complained about good old GMT being replaced by universal time. If Greenwich Mean Time was good enough for Admiral Nelson it should be good enough for the space shuttle! Greg Hatten, a GPS specialist at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado, counters, "Universal Time Coordinated, or UTC, has replaced Greenwich Mean Time because atomic frequency standards [i.e. atomic clocks] have supplanted astronomical measurements. Once, astronomers at the Greenwich Observatory measured the time of local noon -- that is, when the sun was at its zenith. Since sailors relied on longitude calculations from this observatory, it was natural to call the reference Greenwich Mean Time. Precise time is no longer calculated from solar observations. The new UTC has inputs from 58 timing laboratories all over the world, ranging from Warsaw to Bangkok. Each laboratory contributes a percentage of the master clock interpretation according to its sophistication and stability [read: price tag]. The United States, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder and the U.S. Naval Observatory, is the biggest contributor to the computation, at 36 percent. UTC in turn is calculated by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Toulouse. So UTC has a historical connection to Greenwich, but is calculated in France with contributions from all over the world, and the biggest contributor is America." Should we call it Toulouse Mean Time? Boulder Mean Time? Here is a backgrounder on the new time calculation system. And here is a haiku:

GMT is dead.
Astrolabes, sextants replaced.
Need UTC now!

Finally Kapena Pflum of Hilo, Hawaii, asks a question I am often asked: "Ever write 'game over' in your notebook and then turn out to be wrong?" Actually, no. But if I did, I wouldn't tell you!

In addition to writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Gregg Easterbrook is the author of "The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse" and other books. He is also a contributing editor for The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Monthly, and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. Sound off to Page 2 here.




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TUESDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK